My husband and I have been to CSA and loved it! We are coming back to Jamaica in August and thought we might try CN for just 3 nights of the eight. We'll stay at CSA for five nights. We would like opinions on whether this is a smart idea or not. Has anyone else ever done this? We would appreciate any input. We are really anxious for August to come. We'll be celebrating our 35th anniversary during our stay.
Sounds like a good idea. You get a "taste" of CN but know you will also be at your favorite place at the end. Another idea would be to do the trading places program if you think you only want to try CN during the day.
It was almost a year ago to the date that my husband and I booked our split CN/CSA Stay so I can identify with question. The countless wondering and second guessing. Afterall, we want our vacation to be perfect! To answer your question, a split is fabulous, provided you have enough time to do it. We went for two weeks, spending a week at each. It was perfect. All things a vacation should be. Having said that, if I did have the luxury of a two week vacation. My concern would be that splitting an 8 day vacation may feel like you are just getting a feel for the resort and settling in and then it's time to move on.
With that said, below is a review of our experiences during our split CSA/CN stay last year. Grab a drink, a pop, or a cup of tea because this review is a long one. But, on the bright side, you will hopefully have answers to your questions as to the differences of these two resorts.
We knew we wanted to go to Jamaica but were contemplating between CTI, CN, and CSA. The more research we did, the more difficult the decision proved to be, as all the resorts were beautiful in their own way. When posting threads on the message board in hopes of helping me decide I would receive numerous responses, all of which raved about the food, the service, beach, and staff...and to just go to the one "that called to me". Well guess what...they all called to me! What I was never able to get a handle on however was the "feel" of these resorts and how they differed from one another. Once you have been, this can easily be felt, but for those who have never been....well, what does this mean? So, with that said, I hope this review will help some of you better understand how CN and CSA are different from one another. I'm not going to necessarily explain the restaurants, the room categories, which rooms have mini bars, and what items were on the breakfast buffet as that is easy to find, but rather how they differ, how they are similar, and yes, which one we preferred!
A little about us
We had never been to a couples resort prior to this trip and have no loyalty to any resort. We're a couple in our 30's who were looking for a relaxing but FUN vacation. Although we love the beach, I am not one to sit on my beach chair in the hot! hot! hot! sun all day and am not an ocean swimmer. This does not mean however that I don't love a beautiful beach, it's just not all that I look for in a property. We love to meet new people and are very social but also look to our vacations as a time to reconnect. I certainly wasn't looking for a "spring break" party atmosphere but certainly let my hair down when away on holiday, and experience the odd "how much did I drink last night?" moment. I found the perfect combination of romance, tranquility, fun people, jamaican culture, sophistication, class, and that "chill vibe" I was searching for. I love a fun, social, active pool, a beautiful beach, and a laid back atmosphere. Did I find all this...yes, was it at the same resort...NO! Here goes my attempt to explain....
The beach and pools
Let's be honest, anyone who goes to Negril is expecting a gorgeous beach...and this is exactly what you will find at either of these two resorts - if you are a "beach bum" you have found your oasis! It is truly breathtaking, stunning, beyond words beautiful at both these resorts. CSA has nicer sand (barely) and the water is a little rougher. It is a much busier beach, with more activity (people walking by, jet skis, water skiing, parasailers, etc.)...always something to keep you entertained! The beach at CN is much, much quieter. Lots of vacant beach chairs and it is more tranquil and relaxing. The water is literally like bath water and very calm. I would actually go so far as to say the water is even clearer at CN then at CSA. The majority of the guests at CSA gravitate towards the beach making the pools very quiet..until about 3:00 when the pool bar starts to see some action! The pool at CSA is not ideal for those who enjoy "pool life". And please do not say "why would you come all the way to Negril, where the most beautiful beaches are, if you want to sit by the pool" as I enjoy time by the beach but not everyday, all day. The activity around the pool at CSA was disappointing, very small (even smaller then expected) and not overly inviting. CN's pool on the other hand is without a doubt, one of the most beautiful, funnest (I know that's not a word but I like it!), livliest, most social pools I have ever stepped foot in. There were days that I was literally in the water all day (and yes I got out to pee!) It was never out of hand, rowdy, or obnoxious, just adults doing what adults do when they are away from lifes responsibilities. The pool at CN is the heart of the hotel and sitting in the water with the ocean just steps away is beautiful. Simply put, if you plan on spending any time around the pool then you may very well be disappointed in CSA and will love! CN.
CN is very compact and signficantly smaller to CSA, which is why it is so conducive to the socializing and meeting new people. You will see the same faces each day (which can be a blessing or a curse ha ha). It is very easy to make friends and build relationships with the staff. The resort has an older look to it, which is done deliberately, and although you may have prepared yourself for the non lavish feel you may have experienced in the past, it still takes a few hours to adjust. But you will, and you will settle in and appreciate CN for the little gem that it is! Laid back does not even begin to describe this resort...nothing pretentious about this place.
CSA on the other hand is beautiful in all ways that a Caribbean resort should be. The grounds and paths are stunning with lush flora and fawna, beautifully lit walk ways, and because the resort runs horizontally you are always following the beach! The beauty of CSA far surpasses that of CN. Not even close! The buildings, the tiki bars along the beach, the beautiful beach side Sea Grapes. It is gorgeous.
Please don't interpret this as CN being disappointing...it's just more rustic. CN grounds scream "chill, you are on vacation and every little 'ting is gonna be all right"...where CSA is more beautiful, romantic, lush, and tropical.
CSA wins this one WITHOUT A DOUBT! We stayed in a atrium suite and it was exactly as it looked in the pictures. Simple and sexy! And that balcony...unbelievable. We completely underestimated how much time we would spend enjoying this space! I loved the way the rooms at CSA are situated throughout the property and although there are some stunning ocean front rooms with views that are postcard perfect, we were thrilled with our Atrium Suite and wouldn't book anything else (especially for the price difference). There would be a lot of foot traffic along the beach front rooms, and this may be of concern to some. But the views would offset this in my opinion.
The rooms at CN were better then I was expecting. We had a standard, gardenview room with a small balcony. Very colourful and vibrant. The bathroom was smaller but did the trick and everthing was always clean. Nothing special but nothing to complain about either. Although I haven't seen the upgraded rooms at CN, from what I can tell there are VERY few rooms that would offer much of an ocean view. If a true ocean front/ocean view room is important to you, again, CSA is the best choice for you!
The food at both these resorts is most definitely a step above other all inclusives we have travelled. Very tender beef which is nice surprise after eating tuff beef in Mexico for the last few years. I do have to say however that although the food at CSA was nothing short of fabulous, CN was even better! The a la carte dinners were about equal but the food and atmosphere for the buffet dinners were better at CN. Sitting around the pool at CN enjoying great food with the beautiful lobby behind you was great....I always prefer to eat outside and despite the fact that the Palms at CSA is open air, nothing beats the beautiful lights, the crashing waves, and stars above to dine with.
I will admit, prior to leaving I was expecting to notice a difference between the service within these two resorts. What I was not expecting to receive however was better quality service at CN then CSA! During our time at CN we never waited for anything, were always greeted with a smile, and everyone from the front desk staff, the guest relations desk, the maid, the gardener, and the bartenders, everyone truly seemed to care about their job and how we were enjoying our stay with them. Although not an issue for me, and I use this for the purpose of example only, there were a few occasions at CSA where food and drink orders took a considerably long time, or would never arrive at all. This never happened at CN. Drinks were ready before you even ordered, they made an effort to get to know you, remembered not only your name but where you are from, and definitely seemed to be having fun! I feel I make a real effort to get to know the staff and that my efforts were always well received at CN...made lots of friends from the resort and even went out with the staff on a few occasions. CSA's staff, although friendly, just didn't seem to be enjoying there job and the guests in the same way. Of course there are exceptions to this (ex: Winston and Fraser in the Martini Bar at CSA are fabulous), but overall, the service at CN was warmer and friendlier then the service at CSA.
This is the easiest one for me...these two resorts are total opposite's during the evening. CN is quite quiet at night. In fact, many times my husband and I would say "where does everybody go?". We usually ate around 7:30-8:00 and the non-reservation restaurants would be half empty. During the evening entertainment the Terrace would maybe be 1/3 full...and that's likely stretching it. I actually felt bad for some of the entertainers who were doing there best to get the crowd involved but it's kind of hard when you are performing for maybe 50 people. So, we made our own fun in the evening. Often would grab a drink and sit out on the beach, often with other couples who we'd met during our stay. Sometimes we would just chat and have a drink at the bar, others we would hit up the hot tub for a late night soak. In my opinion, CN during our stay was somewhat of a sleepy hollow after the sun went down and the majority of people were tuckered out and bed bound by 10:00! Now CSA on the other hand...totally different story. With the exception of a few nights, I don't think we turned in much before 12:00ish. Whether it be hanging out with Winston and Fraser at the Martini Bar, having post dinner drinks with Ultimate Chocolate, playing 'name that tune' (I know, sounds corny but surprisingly fun!), enjoying the entertainment at the Palms, or dancing the night away at Aura Lounge, I found the evenings to be energetic, fun, and extremely entertaining. If night life is of importance to you then CSA is where you want to go...you will likely be disappointed at CN.
Day life - Not that many people talk about this and although I've touched upon it a little in previous categories I will attempt to summarize here. CN is non stop action around the pool during the day. The pool is FULL of people chatting, lazing by the waterfall wall, floating on rafties, playing volleyball, and of course, socializing at the swimup bar. The beach at CN on the other hand is very relaxed with many people reading, napping, or just gazing at the beautiful beach. So there is definitely something for everybody. Having said that, if you were to close your eyes and picture the perfect beach resort, and could care less about pools, then the vision you see will be that of CSA. It's a true beach resort in every sense of the word. There is no way, in my opinion, that anyone who considers themself a die hard beach lover could ever be disappointed with this resort. However, again, if you like to mix beach days with pool days then CSA will not deliver and CN would be a better choice.
Many people, as I once did, post threads on the message board asking for advice on which resort to go to....but, it's always difficult because these people whom we seek suggestions or advice from don't know the first thing about us, or what we look for in a vacation. So, because of this, my words are simply my thoughts about my ideal vacation. Having said that, if i were recommending resorts to my friends, this is what I would say:
"If great beach, fun night life, lush sprawling grounds and beautiful rooms are most important to you, then CSA is likely best for you. True beach babies will be in heaven here.
If the opportunity to be social and make new friends, a great combination of pool life and beach life, amazing food, a village type feel, and fabulous, personalized service are most important to you, then CN is your new home!"
So, where will we return..in a heartbeat to either. But, if I had to choose between the two I'd have to place my bet on CN! Despite the fact that it is not as "post card" pretty, not as lush, and doesn't have the fun night life of CSA, there was something about the people and the size of CN that worked for us....and I loved it! The combination of lazy mornings by the beach and afternoons with friends in the pool was perfect. We found CN to be the perfect combination of romance, relaxation, and fun. I will miss those Martini's at the CSA Martini Bar with Winston though...
That is the best review I have ever read comparing the two resorts. I am also struggling with the same question. We have been to CSA once, and absolutely loved it, but our holiday was cut short due to my husband breaking his leg water skiing. We are definitely going back, but I will agree with you on the pool issue. Thank you for taking the time, to articulate beautifully the differences and similarities of both resorts.
thanks for this review. We are big CN lovers but I have been trying to get my husband to go to CSA. I know we would love it. I was surprised at the end of your review that you picked CN. I do think as your review showed, both resorts are great and people wouldn't be disapointed with either one.
As I sit here again in a cold Ontario Winter this review brings it all back...and yes, although my husband and I had decided not to travel this year, I have been bit hard by the travel bug. I'm glad you enjoyed the review. We truly loved each resort but they are different. What I found so difficult when booking these resorts is to learn "how" they are different. I read countless reviews of travel propertys but never does anyone want to share what the atmosphere around the resort is like. This is what I am interested in knowing. If you are anything like me, your trip or two away each year is a huge highlight. Something you wait all year for, count the days until it arrives. AND, it's not exactly chump change. I hope that my review can help you decide which is best for you in hopes that your vacation can be as perfect as ours. With that said, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask...I'm happy to help.
Sun Kissed, thanks for the great review! You really nailed the differences in a very well written, positive way. I'm sure that your review will help a lot of people.
We have been to both CSA & CN too along with CSS. We will be heading back to CN this April for all of the reasons you brought out in your review. It's just a better fit for us, just as CSA is a better fit for others. Hey, let's face it, I'm glad each of the Couples Resorts have their own devoted followers. If they only had one resort, it would be pretty hard to make a reservation.
Your review was very timely indeed and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We will be going home in 30 days to CN and have been talking about doing a split between CN and CSA in 2012. We are not really night life people, but we do have a fantastic fun time in the Piano lounge at CN when Paul is playing for the sing alongs. We both sing and have a great time with him, that is the extent of the night life for us, the rest of the nights we go to bed early, but then we get up early the next day.
We have been to CSA on the swap days, and my wife loves the beach, we are not pool people per say. She also loved the rooms that are right on the beach and that is her main attraction. She will walk the beach and I, well, lets just say that the lounge chair, the float, and the red flag get used quite extensively. I like the constant motion on the beach as CSA, but I like the quiet coziness of CN. I spend my days on the lounger, or at the pool bar at CN. I could do that at CSA but could go to a beach bar, which CN does not have.
I will let my wife read your review and see what she thinks. In a little over 30 days we will visit CSA again, and do some more research. We will talk it over and then decide, more then likely doing what you wrote about. It will be a win win either way, as we already know that year we will spend at a minimum of 12 nights, and that no matter which resort, makes it a winner.
We visited CSA last year and loved it but decided to do a "trading places" visit to CN while we were there. We liked what we saw enough that we've decided to do a split stay this year. We'll be at CSA for 3 days in April (21-23) and then finish our stay in Jamaica with a 7 day visit to CN (24-1 May). Since we're already familiar with CSA we figured the "acclimation period" there would be less while allowing more time to explore CN. Oh by the way...that was a great write-up Sun Kissed!!
After many visits to CN, we tried a CSA/CN split, for nights each. We ended up liking CSA a lot more than we thought we would based on a brief tour and walking by it on the beach several times. The rooms, food and staff are all great and we would be happy to go again. However, CN is home and CSS is a close second. CTI was nice and had all of the Couples charms but comes in fourth in our ranking. We have done several splits and have enjoyed them all.
Kris - I appreciate your insight. I'm about to book my husband's 50th birthday celebration at Couples in Ocho Rios: however, after reading your review about Negril, you have me thinking ..... At least now I feel comfortable considering a Couples Resort. Thank you!
Thank you, Sun Kissed for taking the time to give us a really extensive and informative comparison. Thanks to everyone else for their input also. We now know we can't go wrong with either of the Couples Resorts. We are really looking forward to our vacation. I hope August comes quickly. Thanks again for all the replies!
Thank you for such an informative, honest review!
We went to CN for the first time last year (5 stars!) and this year we are trying CSA (the double-digit countdown is on!). I have to admit I'm a little nervous that we'll be disappointed we chose CSA instead of CN, for many of the reasons you mentioned. These vacations are precious- a highlight for sure! They take much of our "play" budget, and we spend many weeks anticipating this week-long vacation! We truly felt CN was close to perfection...particularly its amazing beach which is fairly quiet and relaxing, and the pool area is spectacular for those rare days when it's too windy and sand-stormy to be right on the beach.
But, I'm trying to keep an open mind and once we go, we'll know!